Commentary: Grand Center helps make St. Louis a culturally rich city | St. Louis Public Radio

Commentary: Grand Center helps make St. Louis a culturally rich city

Apr 6, 2017

Nancy Kranzberg

Grand Center is truly the center for the arts in St. Louis.

The Fabulous Fox renovated by the incredible Mary Strauss and the world class St. Louis Symphony Orchestra situated right on Grand Boulevard have been around for years followed by CAM, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, located just around the corner on Washington Avenue. CAM ,designed by  world renowned architect Bradley Cloepfil, presents critically acclaimed exhibitions of cutting edge art and is right next to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation designed by Tadao Ando, also a world class architect, is simply a wonder to look at and to enter and has an array of unique art exhibitions and educational programming.

The Harold and Dorothy Steward Center for Jazz not only presents world class jazz performances  in the Ferring Jazz Bistro, but has educational programs for all ages including such programs as "We Bops"  for pre-schoolers and has presented the public with the “All Stars" jazz group trained by Philip Dunlap, the education director at the jazz center. Wynton Marsalis says that the jazz center is one of the finest in the nation.

Free live music can be heard at the Wednesday night jazz crawl which starts at radio station KDHX, and then continues at The Kranzberg and The Dark Room. The top local jazz artists perform at these different venues each week. There is music in one form or another five days a week in Grand Center.

The Kranzberg, on Grand and Olive, contains a black box theater in which award winning Philip Boehm's "Upstream Theatre" presents its work and UMSL also presents their theatrical performances in the space. Also a cabaret space, a professionally curated art gallery and five studio spaces are occupied by Craft Alliance artists in the building.

And now there is The Marcelle on Samuel Shepard Drive in which Scott Miller, the bad boy of musical theater, presents his innovative presentations of musicals with his New Line Theatre group. The Big Muddy Dance troupe has its offices and rehearsal space at the Marcelle and Dance St. Louis also has offices in the building. 

The .ZACK, on Locust Street, is a very unique arts incubator in which about 20 arts incubatees perform in the 200 seat theater and share a scene shop, offices, a costume shop and storage space. The groups are quite diverse in every way. Taylor Gruenloh heads up Tesseract Theatre and says his group is an ignition point in presenting new work and Carrie Hauk, the director of the Tennessee Williams Festival, is also another great example of those housed at the .ZACK. David Kirkland's restaurant "Turns" serves a delicious breakfast and lunch in the facility.

The Grandel Theater has recently been renovated and is the home to Metro Theater, a nationally recognized children's theater and other theatrical presentations and is the home to five dance troupes including the Ashleyiane Dance Company and the Karlovsky Dance Troupe and includes galleries for the visual arts.

The Centene Center for the Arts is the beautifully renovated Medina Temple and houses the offices of the Arts and Education Council and many local arts organizations and also provides rehearsal space, gallery and presentation spaces.

The Media Commons between KETC, The Nine Network, and KWMU, St. Louis Public Radio, is a high tech event space and will soon be extended to go all the way through to Washington Avenue past the glorious Sheldon's western plaza and hanging garden. Paul Reuter, the director of The Sheldon, is proud to say that the concert hall which has presentations by world class as well as local artists is one of the most acoustically perfect halls in the world and be sure to go in to the art galleries which have wonderfully curated art exhibitions curated by director Olivia Lahs- Gonzales. including a  gallery of children's art. And let’s not forget KDHX radio for independent media around the block. 

Speaking of art galleries, Jasmine Aber presents exhibitions of contemporary architecture in her Creative Exchange Lab(CEL) and Robert Boulivant is nationally known for his special technique in creating very large photographs and he also show the works of other photographers.

And the International Photography Hall of Fame is located above Triumph Restaurant and recently had an induction of eight photographers including such luminaries as Annie Lebowitz and Ken Burns.

Duet Gallery pairs local artists with nationally known ones in a single exhibition which does wonders for our own St. Louis artists and back around the block again sits the beautiful Saint Louis University Art Museum, better known as SLUMA, headed by the vivacious Petruta Lipan and Father Terence Dempsey directs MOCRA, the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, which is one of a kind in the country. 

No one can say that St. Louis is not culturally rich and Grand Center headed by Karin Hageman helps to make it so.

Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than thirty years on numerous arts related boards.